Jul 17, 2013 - By Steve Peck, PublisherA like-new Cloud Kisser II is unveiled at this weekend's Riverton Rendezvous hot-air balloon rally. Planners hope for more cooperative weather this year; last year's flights were called off all three days, although balloons did inflate on the launch field.
Longtime pilot Pat Newlin of Riverton leads the rally for the 13th time, with 25 balloons scheduled to fly. The primary launches are at 6 a.m. Friday and Saturday with the Friday "media day" flight also scheduled, but with fewer balloons.
Newlin said the city has taken delivery of the newly restored Cloud Kisser II balloon envelope. The fabric of the balloon has been replaced with all-new panels, which are more airworthy and have a more vibrant color.
"It looks brand new," Newlin said.
Also new is the wicker basket for the balloon. It's a step up in size from the earlier basket and can carry four propane tanks instead of the three-tank capacity of the previous basket.
The larger basket also means she can take more people aloft.
"We now can take three adults plus the pilot and still fly longer," she said.
Cloud Kisser II and Cloud Kisser III make up the Riverton balloon fleet. Newlin will be offering tethered rides in Cloud Kisser III on Saturday at the Central Wyoming College launch site and flying the new rebuilt balloon Sunday. She and pilot Ginny Holcomb then will trade flight schedules, with Holcomb tethering Sunday. Both balloons are scheduled to fly in Saturday's warmup.
Other balloon events scheduled for the second weekend of Riverton Rendezvous are the Friday night adventure talk by rally guest speaker Don Day. He was the meteorologist for the record-setting parachute jump last year by daredevil Felix Baumgartner that broke previous records for the highest manned balloon flight and the highest sky dive. The previous record was held by another Riverton balloon rally celebrity Joe Kittinger, who assisted in Baumgartner's jump.
Day speaks at 7 p.m. Friday at the Riverton Eagles Club downtown. Newlin said he has some "great information about that stupendous dive."
Newlin said the nighttime "balloon glow" is set for Saturday night at the launch field if weather permits. The balloon glow requires calm winds.
Among the first passengers in the new basket were Ranger columnist Betty Case and her husband, Ned, who are marking their 71st wedding anniversary this month. Newlin said flying weather has been ideal for most of the month and that the forecast for the weekend launch times is encouraging.
Spectators are welcome at the launch field. Balloon sponsors have first preference on balloon flights, with the best chance for bystanders coming on Friday's media day launch.
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